May 21, 2013 9:26:51 AM
STARKVILLE - And then there was two.
According to former Penn State University quarterback Steven Bench, his transfer options have been narrowed to the University of South Florida and Mississippi State University.
Bench, who just announced earlier this months he would be transferring from Penn State, confirmed in a text message response that he will no longer be considering North Carolina State University.
According to a ESPN.com report, former University of Arkansas quarterback Brandon Mitchell will enroll at N.C. State. Mitchell has one season of eligibility and will compete immediately for a starting position. He has appeared in 21 college games with three starts. He has caught 17 passes for 272 yards, is 25-of-43 passing for 332 yards and two touchdowns and has rushed 23 times for 75 yards and two touchdowns.
That read-option based offense is what attracts Bench to N.C. State under new head coach Dave Doeren, who was hired after taking Northern Illinois University to a Orange Bowl berth last season. The Huskies were 23-4 in two season under Doeren with a spread-option offensive attack led by quarterback Jordan Lynch. Through the first 10 games of the 2012 season, Lynch has completed 162 of 258 passes for 2,175 yards with 19 touchdowns and three interceptions. Lynch was also leading the nation in rushing yards with 1,342 yards on 185 carries with 16 touchdowns. During the 2012 Midwest Athletic Conference championship game, Lynch broke Denard Robinson's NCAA single-season increased his rushing record for a quarterback to 1,771 yards on 271 carries.
"I need to get with them personally and see what their quarterback situation really is going into next season because I think the offense they will want to install is perfect for me," Bench said. "I have talked to Coach Doeren and they have expressed first and foremost they want me bad. That is something that is nice to hear from such a high profile program."
NCAA rules restrict the MSU coaches from publicly commenting on the recruiting of a player not yet on their roster.
Bench began his campus visit tours with USF last weekend and arrived at N.C. State this past weekend and then will tour MSU today and tomorrow.
In the phone interview with Bench Saturday, the former Penn State quarterback laid out the attractive nature of each school in his mind before he went on the visits.
Bench said MSU's main selling point is the previous relationship he already has with the program and the staff when he has spoken to MSU assistant coaches Les Koenning and Geoff Collins along with head coach Dan Mullen.
"They recruited me out of high school and I went to their camps to show them my skill set," Bench said. "With Mississippi State, there's no mystery here. They've seen me work, they've spoken to me before and they know what I'm about on and off the field as a person."
If Bench were to arrive at MSU, it would give the Bulldogs the possibility of five scholarships on the roster (Russell, redshirt sophomore Dak Prescott, Bench and the two freshman signees in Cord Sandberg and Damian Williams). Sandberg's stock in the upcoming MLB Draft in June continuing to rise as the current high school senior is ranked No. 40 on the Baseball America Top 100 draft eligible prospects list. Bench would provide future stability to the position as a competition for Prescott for that backup spot in 2013 and starting role after Russell graduates. After Prescott's surgery to correct an issue the his big toe of his left foot, MSU coach Dan Mullen and his staff were left with just Russell this spring as the only healthy scholarship quarterback.
South Florida, who is coming off a 3-9 season, and is expected to allow Bench to compete with third-year sophomore Matt Floyd for the starting quarterback position in fall camp for the 2013 season.
"I'm not against being away from home even though with the reports out there that I'm deciding between schools closer than say, Penn State from where I am in Georgia," Bench said. "At this point I want everyone to know I'm open to any school and any situation. That's sounds like a cliché but it's the truth."
The 6-foot-2, 205-pound Bench appeared in two games for the Nittany Lions last season, completing 2 of 8 passes for 12 yards. The Cairo, Ga., native was a three-star recruit out of high school and under the NCAA sanctions to Penn State is able to play immediately with three years of eligibility remaining. Bench said he decided to leave Penn State because he was under the impressive junior college transfer Tyler Ferguson and incoming freshman recruit Christian Hackenberg would be the two players competing for the starting quarterback role in fall camp. Ferguson and Bench split first-team reps in spring practices that just wrapped up in State College, Pa., last month.
"I want a shot to compete for playing time wherever I go to school next," Bench said. "I want a fair opportunity to earn playing time. If we were to take the academics out of the equation and talk about on the field, I'm going to my new school to play football. Not watch football being played."
The interesting aspect of the prospect of Bench possibly coming to MSU is he mentioned unprompted that he had a redshirt year open to him that he'd be willing to take in order to learn the playbook and develop chemistry with his new teammates. Bench said fifth-year senior quarterback Tyler Russell being the projected starter at the position for the 2013 season wouldn't affect his decision much as a negative against MSU when he finally decided on a new school.
"I perfectly understand that if it were to be Mississippi State, not saying that it will be or they're leading in this thing but whatever, Tyler Russell is the starter," Bench said. "If I end up at MSU, I want a chance at some point to go in and compete for a starting job."If that's at MSU and then Tyler Russell is the starter then maybe that next spring, I would get a fair shot to start from then on. I will remind everybody I have a redshirt year to use and I'm willing to do that too if I need to in order to get myself ready to be the starting quarterback for the following three years."
All of the Dispatch MSU Sports Blog readers: feel free to follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/matthewcstevens for up-to-date Mississippi State coverage.
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